Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

DPJ's Foreign Policy Raises Hopes ... and Concerns
SOEYA Yoshihide / Professor, Keio University

October 26, 2009
The landslide victory of the Democratic Party of Japan in the House of Representatives election held on August 30 was an epoch-making event in the history of Japan's postwar democracy. It showed that the two-party system actually started to work, giving the Japanese people the option of changing government through elections. The Liberal Democratic Party rule thus far had been fraught with problems, but the Japanese people had not placed enough confidence in the opposition parties to give them a chance to govern. In this election, the LDP suffered a massive loss of seats from 300 to 119, while the DPJ won 308 out of 480 seats. For the first time since its establishment in 1955, the LDP fell from its position as the No. 1 party. Amidst this historic shift, the Japanese people apparently have very high hopes for the DPJ's foreign policy. There are many who are keenly watching how the DPJ government will conduct its foreign policy, in anticipation that Japan's diplomacy may be freed from the shackles of the LDP years and undergo major changes.

Immediately upon assuming office, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama demonstrated that politicians'leadership is indispensable for bringing about dramatic changes not only in domestic policy but also in foreign policy. For example, the bureaucrats could not possibly have conceived a daring initiative that set the nearly unattainable goal of reducing green house gas emissions by 25% by 2020 compared to the 1990 level. The true test of politician-led foreign policy lies not so much in how much of the goals and tasks are actually achieved, but in the essential directions and paths that it sets out from a medium to long term perspective. It is basically a foreign policy responding to the demand of the public that desires change.

Prime Minister Hatoyama's advocacy of an East Asian community should be seen in this light as well. The idea of an East Asian community should be debated not so much in terms of its concrete form or feasibility. Rather, its significance lies in indicating a destination or a vision. The specific policies toward East Asia that may be adopted today should be seen in relation to the vision, namely, as a step on the way to the destination. In this sense, the policy toward Japan's neighbours such as the Republic of Korea and China, on which Prime Minister Hatoyama places his priority, is at the core of the DPJ's East Asian policy. Underlying this is the astute awareness that Japan's relationship with its neighbours has posed a hindrance to its East Asian diplomacy.

Having said that, I cannot help feeling greatly concerned about the DPJ's urge to seek an "equal" Japan-U.S. alliance. There is very little doubt that, when it comes to "equality", the United States, for its part, would demand that Japan play a greater role in the alliance. In the process, contrary to the DPJ's urge, Japan's "dependence" on the United States could well be brought into sharper relief. Further, if Japan were to face Asia while demanding "equality"with the United States, how would that Japan appear in the eye of the Asian people? The wariness in the ASEAN's reaction to Prime Minister Hatoyama's idea of an East Asian community may stem in fact from the immaturity of a foreign policy driven by the urge to seek "equality"with the United States.

The DPJ's propensity to base its proactive foreign policy on multilateralism points to the right direction not only for the DPJ's foreign policy but also for Japan's future foreign policy. For example, Foreign Minister Okada's surprise visit to Kabul on October 11 seems to signal that, on Afghanistan, Japan is actively searching for a role which makes the best use of its inherent strength. As for the refueling operation by the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force vessels in the Indian Ocean, we should not lose sight of the fact that it has been conducted in fulfillment of an international role based on the United Nations Charter and the relevant U.N. resolutions. As such, it should not be an issue between Japan and the United States. Rather, it could well have been the centre-piece of the DPJ's foreign policy anchored now in international cooperation. It is hoped that the DPJ's foreign policy will go beyond a knee-jerk reaction to "dependence" on the United States, and be redesigned from the viewpoint of proactively making use of the inherently asymmetric Japan-U.S. relationship.

The writer is Director of Keio Institute of East Asian Studies, and Professor at Faculty of Law, Keio University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

添谷芳秀 / 慶應義塾大学 教授

2009年 10月 26日





(筆者は慶應義塾大学 東アジア研究所所長・法学部教授。)
一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > DPJ's Foreign Policy Raises Hopes ... and Concerns